In a world full of reboots, many are destined to fall short of their predecessors, but every once in a while, a new take on a classic outshines the original. In the case of Dynasty, which originally aired in the 1980s, it was a huge task to plan a revival of the show set in the modern aughts, but that’s exactly what The CW did. Though the whole cast has come together to put a new spin on this campy classic, it’s star Liz Gillies who has brought Fallon Carrington to life and made this reboot into something truly special.
“We’ve reached a point in our show where we have completely found our own voice; we have a tongue-in-cheek approach to the way we execute our storylines and keep the camp factor alive while still being a good show,” Gillies shares of how Dynasty, now in its fourth season, compares to the original. “I hope that people can watch it and see that we’ve created something entirely different. At this point, there are only little Easter eggs of the original — we’ve made our own thing. So, we know we can never touch the original and, I promise, we don’t try.”
As a fan of the iconic soap opera starring John Forsythe, Joan Collins, and more, Gillies was a bit gobsmacked when she first found out about the reboot. The actress was in the hospital having her appendix removed when she got the script, and as a devotee of Collins, Gillies wanted to try her hand at playing Alexis Carrington (aka Fallon’s mom). Fans of the show already know that her wish didn’t pan out, and even though Gillies may have initially been bummed by reading for Fallon instead, it’s safe to say it was the right choice.
“I understood that I was nowhere near the age required to play Alexis,” Gillies says. “So, I remember going in there and then I screen-tested the next week and they gave me the part in the room, which was very unusual. I never had that happen before in my entire career.” It was clear that the showrunners saw the fire in Gillies that was needed to play Fallon, placing her in the role that would not only lead the show but easily become one of the most complex and admirable characters on TV right now.
Fallon Carrington is one of those characters that you love to hate and hate to love. She’s part of the Carrington dynasty in Atlanta, and not only does she have an extremely complicated relationship with her family, but literally everyone else in her life as well. She’s a hard-nosed businesswoman one day and the most epic party planner the next. She’s toe to toe with her dad, Blake Carrington (played by Grant Show), one day, and showering him with praise the next. And every step of the way, she’s dripping in designer clothes that any fashion-lover could only dream of owning.
“Fallon is almost like a caricature, and I play her really big, and I don’t think I get to do that on any other show,” Gillies says of her character. “I’m aware of what show I’m on. I’m hyper-aware of it,” she adds with a laugh. At its core, Dynasty is a modern soap opera, and rather than try to take itself seriously, the show plays up how over the top it is, and Gillies is first in line to turn her character into this “selfish, erratic” woman who still has a conscience, making audiences feel for her even when they don’t want to.
“I, of course, have so much fun playing her when she’s off on one of her tears and she’s just storming around making a mess,” Gillies shares while laughing. “But it is funny how she’s always desperate to clean it up almost immediately after she does it. And, I think, that’s why people root for her even though she can be quite villainous.”
It’s her conscience, actually, that peeks out from time to time, that keeps her on this side of being good. If Gillies let her character constantly be the mean girl, no one would care about her first-world problems, but because deep down Fallon is someone who desperately wants to help people, viewers latch onto that, laughing at her pain because they know she can get through.
“Even in the moments where she’s miserable, she allows you to enjoy it because she’s miserable in a very campy way,” Gillies says. “It usually involves her with a turban and sunglasses and a martini in bed.”
A turban and sunglasses are just the tips of the iceberg of Fallon’s wardrobe, which is practically a character in its own right. With a wardrobe the size of Bloomingdale’s, Fallon is quite possibly the best-dressed character on TV. When I tell Gillies that I don’t think I’ve seen so much Gucci in one place that’s not a Gucci store, she laughs in agreement, quickly pointing to the all-over monogram Gucci suit that Fallon rocks at the front of the current season of the show. But when you’re running multiple businesses, you have to look the part, you know?
“I have had the time of my life having these fittings and learning about fashion through Fallon’s eyes,” Gillies says, adding that her character’s wardrobe is also a collaborative effort with the costume department. “And I’ve gotten to work with such incredible costume designers who have taught me so much, and I try to apply it to my life, but I’m realistic about it. And, at the end of the day, it’s not attainable. It’s attainable for very few people and it’s fun for them.” The thing with Fallon’s wardrobe, though, is not only is it not attainable, but it’s not super sustainable either — but it’s for a purpose. Gillies says that the production team decided early on that Fallon is the type of person who would never wear an outfit twice, so after they use something, it goes right into the Dynasty closet for storage. The only pieces that get reused are coats and bags. Gillies points out, though, that they have to keep the outfits on hand because Dynasty is a show known for flashbacks — so costumes are all stored just in case season five decides to harken back to season one.
Though Gillies knows this is all very purposeful, it’s not a method she employs in her own wardrobe. “I’m never going to have her wardrobe,” she says. “I would never allow myself to have her wardrobe. What she invests in these outfits that she wears once … because we truly never wear something more than once. … While that’s very cool for Fallon, I don’t agree with that. Especially now, it’s important to wear things more than once when you’re investing in a piece.”
In discussing the wardrobe, Gillies has become animated through the screen. Our mid-afternoon Zoom call in the throes of summer found us both tucked away at home — her in Atlanta where she’s stayed safe throughout the pandemic and me in New York — but not even the distance could keep this writer from making sure Gillies knows how big of a fan I am of Dynasty. During 2020 when everyone was forced to be at home and Netflix became our best friend, I stumbled upon Dynasty on the streamer and swiftly fell in love with the story, the setting, the rotating cast, and everything in between. Anyone who spoke to me in 2020 got a recommendation to check out Dynasty on Netflix, and being able to bring my thoughts and questions directly to the source was a beautiful experience. One of the other hot topics? The music in the show.
Gillies, an accomplished singer and songwriter in real life, has burst into song on occasion on Dynasty, and each time is a real treat. In the current season, Fallon writes a wedding song for Liam (played by Adam Huber), and it’s one that Gillies and her IRL husband, Michael Corcoran, whom she married last year, wrote together for the show. Called “More Than Me,” the song was performed by Fallon in a quiet moment on the show, but some of her other performances are larger than life — like her cover of “Drivers License” by Olivia Rodrigo this season or “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, which she whipped out on karaoke night. Much like her influence on her wardrobe, Gillies does have some say in the music she ends up performing in the show as well.
“Josh [Schwartz], our showrunner, allows me to be very collaborative with the music and I record everything at my studio with my husband in my house here in Atlanta, because my husband’s a producer and a songwriter,” she says. “And so, I basically said, ‘If we were going to keep doing these musical moments, you have to let me have some say in what I’m singing. Otherwise, I don’t really want to do it.’”
She says she’s typically given a collection of songs to choose from for some of these moments, but other times performs what she’s given. For the wedding song, though, she wasn’t originally slated to provide the song, but when the opportunity presented itself, she wisely pointed out that no one would understand Fallon’s point of view better than her.
“I felt like I had to [write the song] because she had been working on it for three episodes and she’s playing along and she’s trying to come up with the lyrics and she’s thinking about their relationship,” she says of the song. “So, I threw my hat in the ring. I just asked Josh, ‘Can I just write something and if you like it, you can use it for her? If not, you can hire whoever you want to write it from my perspective.’ But I knew it couldn’t be too refined because she’s not a songwriter and, even though she sings on the show, she doesn’t fashion herself a singer. And it had to be pure and it had to be, also, a bit narcissistic.”
What resulted was Fallon telling Liam she loves him more than she loves herself, something Gillies calls the ultimate compliment from someone like Fallon. “She’s like, ‘I love me so much, but I actually love you more.’ So, it was sweet.”
Gillies’s collaboration with production and her ability to lead the show for the past four seasons also led to an entirely new experience: her directorial debut. Gillies directed her very first episode of Dynasty — her first directing gig ever — and it’s the episode that airs tonight. “It was the most fun and the most fulfilling experience I’ve had on the show yet, probably,” she says, immediately lighting up. “I love directing, and so many of my boxes were checked while directing. I felt so awake and alive.”
She says she actually loves directing so much that she wants to continue doing it, even outside Dynasty, but the job was a lot harder than she anticipated it would be. “Because I was in so much of the episode, that’s what really made it very challenging,” she says. “I don’t find it incredibly fun to act under my own supervision. I had to tell myself when to stop doing takes of myself and I had to decide on my own when I got the performance that I believe I needed for myself without watching it, which was very difficult.” Gillies says she also was surprised by how much footage needs to be shot and then eventually cut, something she found incredibly difficult to do. In the end, though, it’s an experience she’s hoping to do again very, very soon.
“I’m thankful they let me take my first swing on this show,” she says. “A show that I was very comfortable on and with a crew that I love so much and that has so much respect for me and I them. I just can’t wait to direct again. It’s my favorite. I love it!”
It’s been a long road for the 28-year-old actress to get to this place in her career. After making a name for herself as a child star on Nickelodeon, most notably as Jade in Victorious (alongside her bestie Ariana Grande), Gillies thought it would be an easy transition into the next step of her career and into more mature roles. She quickly realized, though, that she needed to do some work on herself to mature into someone more than a former child star, but also to prepare the world to understand her as an adult. “The bigger thing was the industry needed to forget that I was on that show,” she says of Victorious ending. “And you’re never going to let people forget altogether. All you can do is change your hair color, you can change your appearance, you can talk differently, you can take different pictures that make them look at you differently, but it’s really hard to change the industry’s perception of you and your audience’s perception of you.”
She spent the time auditioning for roles that would allow her to break out of that mold rather than settle back into what she was comfortable with. She found a home in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll as Gigi on FX, and it was this role (with an older cast) that helped her find her place in the industry. “[The show] was adult and there was cursing and there was nudity,” she says. “And I was just, basically, thrown right into that world. And I’m thankful that I got to do that because it helped me grow up.” But The CW soon came calling with a spot on Dynasty, and Fallon actually allowed Gillies to combine her knowledge of being on a younger network with what she learned on FX. “I do feel like Fallon is an ageless character,” she says. “She could be 20 or she could be 40. I don’t even know at this point which one she is.”
Gillies knows that in the grand scheme of things, finding herself in Hollywood wasn’t really all that bad, despite how difficult it felt to her at times. When we’re constantly faced with headlines of former child stars struggling with everything from mental health issues to drug addiction while trying to cope with no work, it’s easy to be concerned with anyone who comes from that background. For Gillies, she prepared herself early on for what would come after her time as a young performer, because she never wanted to lose herself completely.
“I don’t like letting people into my personal life or my issues,” she shares. “I’ve never done that. I always have a version of myself that is entirely honest but, still, quite guarded that I present to social media.” She adds that in all her early work, her jobs required her to have and use social media. Nickelodeon made sure she had an active Instagram, Broadway (which she starred on when she was young) made sure she had an active Twitter. Despite all this, though, she’s only ever shared bits and pieces of her life, because she says she doesn’t want outside opinions on her private life — something that’s completely and totally valid.
“Someone once described it as having an answering machine or a voicemail with so many messages that you could never possibly answer all of them,” she says of how it feels to have people constantly tweeting, DMing, or messaging her on social media. “So, you ended up feeling overwhelmed. And then, when it’s all comments and advice and guidance or people reaching out about something that’s personal to you or something that’s close to you, it becomes that much more overwhelming.”
Her solution these days is simple: Hand the keys to Fallon and let her do all the work. One peek at Gillies’s Instagram will tell you that it’s actually Fallon running the show. It’s a unique way for the actress to still stay engaged with her fans without having to tear herself open too much. “I’m running it, I’m posting the pictures, I’m delivering the captions, I’m interacting with everybody,” she says. “But we’re focused on the fashion or the camp of it all or what Fallon’s going through or something that I find funny or fan art, which I adore. I also like to amplify voices that I feel need to be amplified. So, it takes the pressure and the attention off of me. And, that, I think is important if you want to maintain a healthy social media relationship and balance. But it’s not for everybody.”
While this method works for Gillies, she says she still supports celebrities or even everyday people who want to use their social media as an outlet to share, well, everything. Devoted fans of Gillies, though, will spot the real her shining through in some of her posts, like when she shows off her dogs — which she calls her children.
“Lucy, my daughter, she’s a Pit Bull, but she’s 11 now and I’ve decided that she wouldn’t want to be in the public eye, which isn’t real,” she says with a laugh while explaining why you may not see her on Instagram as much these days. “It’s the weirdest thing ever. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t even know what the internet is. So, I’m weirdly protective.”
Gillies may be super private about her own life, but Fallon is anything but, and fans have loved the glimpse behind the scenes of the show, courtesy of their shared Instagram account. Sharing sweet moments with her fellow castmates, larger looks at some of the best outfits Atlanta’s elite are wearing, and even hints at what’s to come, Gillies’s social media has become the place to be for Dynasty fans. But what she hasn’t shared much about yet is what’s to come with the rest of season four … and beyond.
“The finale of this season is huge and the stakes are so high,” she says with a sly smile. “So, that is an episode that I feel will leave people gasping. It’s truly shocking what we did and I’m excited for everyone to see it. We’ve already had fires and gunshots and all these things. And ghosts! We’ve even had ghosts. We’ve had fingers flying off. I’ve played my own mother. We’ve done it all. And yet we come up with more.”
We’ll just have to wait to see what level of absurdity the show gets to when the finale airs — and in season five as well, which The CW already announced. It’s hard to say where Dynasty may go next, but we already know it’ll include Fallon stomping into business meetings in the most glam designer outfits and getting shit done. And Gillies wouldn’t have it any other way.